Last summer I put my kids through what I called a “Heathi(er) Eating Boot Camp” for two weeks and wrote about our experience on the blog. When the experience was over, life got super busy, and we unconsciously fell right back into our former ways. Well, here it is a year later, and even though I haven’t actually tried to continue with that way of doing things, I can see a few things that have changed as a result of the experience.
1. My youngest is so much better about taking at least a bite (or sometimes several bites) of things. She still doesn’t like sloppy joes much, but we can get her to eat a little bit each time which is a huge improvement over where we were before! And this is the case for just about anything now. She used to show a lot of fear and anxiety when faced with an unfamiliar food, but now that fear is greatly reduced (not gone, but definitely reduced). Yay!
2. Both of my girls enjoy experimenting with flavors now. I don’t know if this is a result of our experience, but my appreciation of it is. They love to smell spices and choose different ones from the cupboard to add to their food. I let them do this because I want them to enjoy a variety of flavors and allowing them to experiement themselves can help them.
3. I have less fear of asking my kids to eat something I know they will really dislike. I guess this sounds a little funny, that I would have fear of that. But it is such an unpleasant thing for me to sit down at the table and have the focus of our conversation be whether or not everyone likes and/or will eat the food I served. So I tend to avoid it by serving what I know will be accepted. The “boot camp” forced me out of my own comfort zone on this and made me (and them) realize that we will all survive if the best option for the meal is something they greatly dislike. I still mostly tend to fix food that everyone is used to, but I also occasionally find myself pushing those boundaries a little bit more than I did previously, and feel more confident about my choice to do so.
4. I worry a lot less about theirs (and my) eating habits. I realize these habits are not perfect, but I’ve reached a place of contentment with that imperfection. Honestly, a poplular blogger, Andrea Dekker has played a huge role in helping me with that. Although a lot of people talk and write about the drawbacks of perfectionism, Andrea has helped me more than anyone else to see how letting go of perfectionism can help me accomplish more of what’s important in life. I feel like I’m finally getting it!!
Here are some of her posts (from andreadekker.com) that have been especially helpful to me in accepting the imperfection of our situation, as well as being able to move forward with and feel good about small improvements.
- Why We Don’t Force Veggies and Allow Snacks
- Why We Eat Some Processed Foods
- Good Enough
- Why I’m a “do more at less than 100%” Person
- Three Simple Concepts to Simplify Your Life
5. I’ve changed my approach (or rather my intended approach). For so long my approach (or at least the intent) was that I would prepare the food so that I could control what was served. But as they got older and more capable, more and more often they were preparing their own food…but not necessarily as healthfully as I felt it should be. As a result, I resisted in officially turning the job over to them. But this past year I have put them fully in charge of packing their own lunches and mostly in charge of preparing their own breakfasts, even to the point of letting them ask me to buy certain foods for this purpose at the store. So with this control over their choices, I’ve realized that it’s more about teaching them to make healthy choices than simply expecting them to eat what they are served.
6. I think the biggest change is that I’m finally enjoying food again! The stresses that I’ve felt over the past few years have pretty much taken all the fun out of preparing and eating food. I love good food, and I really love variety. So I’m back to trying new recipes again and worrying less about them being perfectly healthy and perfectly pleasing to everyone at the table (although I do try to have something there that each person will like). But not only that, I’m letting and encouraging my kids to create new combinations of things and have fun with different flavors too. Food really can be a lot of fun if we let it.
So that’s us a year later. Now it’s the beginning of yet another summer, full of lots of fun activities and all of the good food that goes along with them!